Published on August 9th, 2013 | by Sweet N. Lowdown3
Jasmine Facun AKA Sweet N. Lowdown by Rich-Joseph Facun
East Coast Derby Extravaganza, A Love Letter
I stared at the big blue plus symbol, half expecting it to disappear. It just stared back.
How could this happen? Well, I knew how it happened but no really, HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?
A familiar knot bubbled up into my throat as I tried to unravel a thousand tangled emotions.
Am I happy?
Well, yes, I suppose I am. Levi will share his childhood with a sibling. Another baby to hold in my arms. Oh I just know it’s a girl…
Yes yes, I am happy.
C’mon, admit it, even if it’s only to yourself. Aren’t you just little disappointed? Just maybe?
Sigh. Yeah. The timing could have been better. The interleague season is just starting and I’m going to miss all of it. I wonder if my team will still want me as their captain…
Don’t be silly, Jasmine; it’s just derby. But this… this is a new life.
But we have a bout coming up and then there’s that new invitational in Philly in a few weeks! Hmmm… I must only be 4 weeks along and just happened to catch it early. Most women wouldn’t even know by now. Maybe I can still bout just for a little while….
No no, you’re right. I can’t do that. Stupid idea.
A baby! Again!
It took me all of a minute to get over the shock and then fly downstairs to tell my husband the news.
The next month was easy enough. In fact, it was almost too easy. I still didn’t have any morning sickness and hardly even felt pregnant. My team took it well and decided to keep me on as the All Star captain and League Head Coach even though I was out of commission. We won our bout and I learned that coaching from the sidelines is really just code for jumping up and down and whooping like a maniac. Sure, I was bummed about not skating but my absence was an opportunity for a brand new rotten meat, T. Rex YaFace, to don the jam star and the girl showed a ton of promise. The excitement of having another baby had taken over and I was already falling in love with that little morsel of cells growing inside me.
It was the morning of Friday, February 9, 2007 when I noticed a familiar stain of red. I stared at it for a few minutes, taking more time than necessary to process the very obvious fact that I was bleeding. I stifled the panic creeping into my thoughts and calmly called my doctor. I was eight weeks pregnant and my first appointment wasn’t scheduled until the following Monday but the doctor told me to come in. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor found our baby on the ultrasound and we smiled as we listened to her little hummingbird heart beat for the first time.
I made a quick post on my league’s forum when I got home and they assured me that bleeding in pregnancy is common and offered anecdotal evidence of perfectly healthy babies being born after not-so-perfect pregnancies. I felt somewhat assured, wanting to hope.
But the bleeding didn’t stop.
I cried through the weekend and through my doctor’s visit Monday morning when that cold jellied wand searched across the skin of my womb for a miracle, only to find nothing.
Empty. And just like that, she was gone.
I took the day to mourn and thanked my friends and family for their awkward condolences. Well, at least you weren’t further along… It’s just nature’s way… I am so sorry…. They were all well-meaning but what does someone say in a situation like this? The baby was gone almost as quickly as she–it–had come. More than anything, I wanted to erase the memory, the pain. I deleted all mention of the pregnancy on social media and assured my friends that I was fine, that yes, it was early in the pregnancy, just one of those things, it happens after all, and that I was ready to continue with my own life. Just please, I can’t bear the pity.
Saturday morning at the rink was colder than I had remembered. In fact, it was freezing. I kept my giant winter coat on over my pads and joked self-deprecatingly with friends as we started warm-ups. See? I’m okay! To my inward disappointment, I felt sluggish and out-of-shape. Tired. I hadn’t realized how much the pregnancy had already taken its physical toll on my body in two short months. In the weeks before the pregnancy, I had been working on breaking a personal time trial record and was only one second away from my goal. Now, I feared it would take much longer than two months to catch up again. This thought was terrifying not because I would have to rebuild my endurance but because I didn’t think I could handle the daily reminders of a body that was recently pregnant, and then wasn’t.
I stuffed those feelings down and struggled through practice.
One week later, I received a call. My husband, Rich, was in the ER. He had hurt his foot skateboarding and as of yet, didn’t know what the damage was, only that it was bad. We soon learned just how bad. This was no 6 week ordeal. He had dislocated all five metatarsals of his left foot and broken four of them. He would need at least two months of bed rest, several surgeries, and eight months on crutches. He would need constant care. If he wanted a drink, someone would have to fetch it. If he wanted food, someone would have to make it. If he wanted to move at all, someone would have to help him.
When I would have been due to have my baby.
I wanted to laugh at the ironies of life and how darkly appropriate it was that instead of caring for a baby around the clock, I would instead be caring for a full-grown man.
The world was spiraling out of control and I needed air fast.
So I left.
It was the weekend of the first-ever East Coast Derby Extravaganza in Philadelphia, then affectionately known as “ECE.” Our league, the Dominion Derby Girls, had originally planned to play sanctioned games but ever-struggling with numbers, were forced to pull out of our bouts and instead opted for a single challenge bout with another team. Before the pregnancy, I had planned to attend ECE–er, “ECDX”–and was even invited to compete in a few challenge bouts, including one with Team Awesome. Of course, I had since declined all my derby obligations but made a last-minute decision to travel to Philadelphia with the team and skate in Dominion’s one challenge bout.
It was mid-March and unseasonably cold. In fact, the farther north our van inched, the more treacherous the journey became. Ice and snow blanketed the highway and we traveled at a snail’s pace, finally reaching the designated derby hotel several hours later than expected. Tell-tale signs of “derby” littered the otherwise nice hotel–women at every turn, in the elevators, in the bar, in the lobby, all donning derby. We had arrived.
I had been put into a room with another skater who had decided to come along at the last minute–T. Rex YaFace–and we bonded over our shared sleep number. She proposed to me a month later and we’ve been derby wives ever since.
The next morning, the venue was relatively quiet. Teams were still trickling in or completely stuck in travel because of the snow storm. There were warnings not to walk under the outside awnings because of icicles and falling snow. (An entire row of cars in the parking lot was demolished by snow that had avalanched down from the venue’s roof.) There was a tension in the air and perhaps some fear that the weekend would be a bust.
We skated our challenge bout with 8 skaters, and lost. As I was removing my gear on the sidelines, someone frantically tapped my shoulder and asked if I could fill a spot in a challenge bout. Half of Team Awesome was still stuck in travel and they needed skaters–now. I hurriedly put my skates back on with a twinge of adrenaline coursing through my veins, grabbed a jersey from the pile of no-shows and smiled. Roxy Rockett. She wouldn’t mind.
It was chilly in the venue and it felt good to sweat. By the end of the two bouts, I felt…better? It was as if my heart, which had been left as cold and cracked as the weather outside, was thawing with each lap and every hit.
And so, I skated.
The rules for joining challenges were lax that first year and I happily admit that I fully exploited them. I hopped from one challenge to the next all day, not caring what team I was on or whose jersey I wore, whether I jammed or blocked. I just wanted to roller skate. I hadn’t known it until then, but I was furious and I was going to leave it on the track. There were very few fans or skaters in attendance that weekend but I was skating for no one but myself. With each jam, the events of the previous month were swept away under my wheels, sweated out in buckets of perspiration, delivered into each johnny crash. That weekend was my therapy, my absolute catharsis.
As I write this, my pads are in the washing machine, and I’m making mental notes on what I need to pack. We’re heading to ECE–er, ECDX–tonight. I’ve returned almost every year since that first and each year I’m awed by the growth of both the event and the sport. It truly is something to behold. And even though the organizers have (wisely) moved the weekend to June with pool parties and food trucks, and even though the event has become more and more professional, and even though the skating has become so much more spectacular…I don’t think any year, for me, will compare to that first year in 2007 when a weekend in Feasterville, PA, gave me something I couldn’t give myself–healing. So thank you, East Coast Derby Extravaganza. You will always have a special place in my heart. I’ll see ya soon.